Gavilan Trading Post

Valley of the Moon Ranch, NM

HARVEST MOON: The story of how a video game cultivated a garden.

Danielle's picture

My young life was spent in the rural northern outskirts of Santa Fe, NM. Our family of seven had chickens, cats, dogs and some horses. My younger brother Ben and I were quite a bit younger then the rest of our siblings, only a year a part in age and were homeschooled (Actually, Unschooled). This amounted to the two of us running around together and doing what we wanted, nothing short of all of the time.

Ben and I would wander the country side, play with dogs, make forts, build things out of Legos, and what have you. One of our favorite activities was playing video games. Many of the games were not note worthy but among my favorite games, was a game called “Harvest Moon”, it was a rather deep farming simulation/role-playing game. You, a young single farm boy, are set on the task of taking Grandpa's rundown old farm and turning it back into a productive family farm, you clear land, grow crops, raise milk cows, win the love of one of the town's girls so that you can take her home and get her preggers, commune with Imps and win the favor of that hot green haired Goddess that lived in the mountain pond (Meeow). At the end of the game you were judged on how much your cows and wife loved you, how many veggies you sold, and generally how awesome you were as a farmer and person. This game was hard, rather tedious and many a fine days of mine were wasted playing it, but something interesting started to happen...

I was about nine years old and this game had really moved me. When I would feed my real life chickens in the morning, I fed them with more purpose and pride. And on one fine day I picked up a hoe, went outside and started breaking ground much like I had seen in the game (Not unusual unschooler behavior). I had hoed a 6' by 6' patch of dirt, I then put up a small fence made out of tent stakes and scrap wire to keep dogs and chickens away from my soil. And then planted Corn, Peas and Beans. I watered them with a watering can every day, just like I had done in the game so many times. Before I knew it, I had four pea plants, three bean plants and three corn plants!
By no means were these stunted little plants impressive by anyone's standards but never the less I was proud and made prouder every time I harvested a pea or bean pod (always inserted directly into the mouth). I learned so much from this experience and I was able to practice observation skills on the way the plants grew. For instance, I noticed that my peas suffered under the hot New Mexican sun while the corn looked rather sad in the shade, and this led to placement planning for a more successful garden in the future. Yes, my little plants brought joy and purpose to my life and at some point during that garden's life, I declared that I wanted to be a real farmer.

Harvest Moon did not make me a farmer but it certainly inspired me to follow an already existing passion and provided some of my first farm related education, even if the information was mostly inaccurate it still held some farming principals; work hard, water your crops, love your chickens, don't leave your cows outside during a typhoon.
And It's safe to say video games inspired Ben's passions as well, which turns out is playing video games!

For the record, I don't play video games anymore... Well, not usually. I mean sometimes a girl just needs a little 'Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney', ya know? And no, I have not discovered any secret desire to become an Attorney from such activities, but you never know.